Dia de los Muertos – All Souls Day at Lake Chapala Ajijic

November 10, 2008

Dia de los Muertos – All Souls Day at Lake Chapala Ajijic


Just a few days ago Chapala area cemeteries were alive with people. No, there was no miraculous resurrection.

It was the very practical and not morbid at all (once you think about) day set aside each year all over Mexico to honor departed loved ones.

Dia de los Muertos translates “Day of the Dead” and is also referred to as “All Souls Day”.

During the last days of October, families here go to the final resting places of loved ones to clean up grave sites, place flowers and in general spruce up the area.


In addition, preparations are made for the family gathering to take place a few days later with graveside celebrations commemorating the life of the departed loved ones


The final decorative touches are added the first two days of November.

November 1stis called “Dia de Todos los Santos(All Saints Day) and is devoted to remembering Angelitos – the “little angels” who died in infancy.

Their graves are adorned with wreaths, crosses, ribbons and flowers. Some with less money may use reeds pciked from the lake, and or colored crepe paper streamers fashioned into various deigns.

Candy and toys are sometimes left and almost always long-burning candles are set out.

For those who died after childhood November 2nd is the day  their for a family outing to the Panteon (cemetery) that often lasts all day and into the night even when it’s hard to say goodbye.

Local priests also arrive for on-site celebrations of  memorial mass.

It’s a bitter sweet time and can become quite a celebration at  with plenty of food and drink, songs, music and even live bands.

A typical Day of the Dead culinary treat is called “pan de muerto” (dead man’s bread), calabaza en tacha (pumpkin slices stewed in brown sugar syrup) and grinning calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) inscribed across the forehead with common names like Jose, Jesus and Maria.

The idea of these celebrations seem unusual to say the least, to foreign newcomers, but those of us more familiar with Mexican culture recognize the local custom of tomb-side picnicking as a fitting tribute to departed loved ones.


In my home my Mexican wife sets out a special table with photos of departed loved ones and decorations of ribbons and flowers and of course the long burning candles which burn all night long during the days of celebration.


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